Disrupting the hosted PBX system with WebRTC.
[If you are new around here, then you should know I’ve been writing about WebRTC lately. You can skim through the WebRTC post series or just read what WebRTC is all about.]
There’s no doubt that WebRTC is disrupting many industries. One of the obvious ones is enterprise communications, and in this space, an area that has got little attention on my end (sorry) is the SMB – where a small company needs a phone system to use and wants to look big while at it.
Moshe Maeir, Founder at Fone.do, just launched the service out of Alpha. I have been aware of what they were doing for quite some time and Moshe took the time now that their service is public to answer a few of my questions.
What is Fone.do all about?
Fone.do is a WebRTC based phone system for small businesses that anyone can set up in 3 minutes. It replaces both legacy PBX systems that were traditionally based in your communications closet and also popular Hosted PBX systems. Businesses today are mobile and the traditional fixed office model is changing. So while you can connect a SIP based IP phone to our system, we are focused on meeting the needs of the changing business world.
Why do small businesses need WebRTC at all? What’s the benefit for them?
You could ask the same question about email, social networks etc. Why use web based services at all? Does anyone want to go back to the days of “computer programs” that you downloaded and installed on your computer? Unfortunately, many still see telephony and communications as a stand alone application. WebRTC changes this. Small businesses can communicate from any place and any device as long as they have a compatible platform.
What excites you about working in WebRTC?
Two things. Not sure which is more exciting. First of all. If I build something great – the whole world is my potential market. All they need is a browser and they are using our system in 3 minutes. The other exciting aspect is that telephony is no longer a closed network. Once you are on the web the potential is unlimited. You can easily connect your phone system to the wealth of data and services that already exist on the web and take communications to a new level. In fact, that is why we hired developers who knew nothing about telephony but were experienced in web development. The results are eye opening for traditional telecom people.
I know you’re a telecom guy yourself. Can you give an example how working with web developers was an eye opener to you?
There are many. The general attitude is just do it. With legacy telecom, everything has the accepted way of doing things and you don’t want to try anything new without extended testing procedures. A small example – in the old VoIP days writing a “dial plan” was a big thing. When we came to this issue on Fone.Do, one of the programmers naturally googled the issue and found a Google service that will automatically adapt the dial plan based on the users’ mobile number. 1-2-3 done.
Backend. What technologies and architecture are you using there?
Our main objective was to build an architecture that will work well and easily scale in the cloud (we are currently using AWS). So while we have integrated components such as the Dialogic XMS and the open source Restcomm, we wrote our own app server which manages everything. This enables us if we need to freely change back end components.
Can you tell us a bit about your team? When we talked about it a little of a year ago ago, I suggested a mixture of VoIP and web developers. What did you end up doing and how did it play out?
All our developers are experienced front end and backend web programmers with no telecom experience. However, our CTO who designed the system has over 15 years of experience in Telecom, so he is there to fill in any missing pieces. There were some bumps at the beginning, but I am very happy we did it this way. You can teach a web guy about Telephony, but it is very hard to get a Telecom guy to change his way of thinking. Telecom is all about “five nines” and minimizing risk. Web development is more about innovation and new functionality. With todays’ technology it is possible to innovate and be almost as reliable as traditional telephony
Where do you see WebRTC going in 2-5 years?
Adoption is slower than I expected, but eventually I see it as just another group of functions in your browser that developers can access as needed.
If you had one piece of advice for those thinking of adopting WebRTC, what would it be?
WebRTC is here. It makes your user experience better – so what are you waiting for?
What’s next for Fone.do?
We recently released our alpha product and we are looking to launch an open beta in the next couple of months. Besides a web based “application”, we also have applications for Android and iOS.
The interviews are intended to give different viewpoints than my own – you can read more WebRTC interviews.